Hey ladies, remember these…?
Those delightfully damaging Enjoli advertisements from the ‘80s?
*Gulp.* (Imagine that making the Superbowl break nowadays?!)
That’s right. As Gen X-ers we REALLY were spoon fed that we could ‘have it all.’ The children. The career. The husband…
And of course we’d ‘never NEVER let him forget he’s a man.’
The thing is, whether it was our well intentioned mothers cheering us on — from a generation where women’s rights were little more than a novelty — or the subliminal craziness of ads like these popping up every 30 minutes…
Where has this internal dialogue left us?
>> Burnt out
>> Leaving our own wellbeing limping in last place
And deep down you know that’s not serving anybody…
So, this month I’m examining the psychology behind letting our purses (and our minds) constantly overflow with this baggage…
I’m looking at why we ALL fall into one of 2 camps when it comes to aspiring for more in our lives…
AND why we’re all still suffering from a bad case of comparisonitis. (And yes, what the heck we can do about it!)
So ladies, let’s dive in!
You may have heard of Tal Ben-Shahar? He’s a leading light in the world of positive psychology and one of my absolute heroes…
Tal’s the author of 3 books including Happier, and taught the largest class in Harvard’s history: ‘Positive Psychology 101.’ He also founded the HSA (Happiness Studies Academy) where I studied for over a year — gaining coaching certification in the science behind happiness.
Tal believes there are 2 distinct forms of perfectionism:
- The ‘Perfectionist.’ This individual who’s gotta be SO on point they’re suffering from anxiety, depression — even addictions.
- The ‘Optimalist.’ A healthy, striving individual who uses high standards to fuel their growth.
And here’s the big difference: the Perfectionist fails to embrace reality. They’ll work 16 hours a day… AND stay super-healthy/be a model spouse/the perfect parent/be super active in the community/BFF to millions…
BUT, they’re failing to embrace the constraints of reality. They simply can’t do all those things. And when they inevitably fall short of their own expectations, they beat themselves up and… it all comes crashing down. Perfectionism for them, has become a great source of misery.
On the flip side, the Optimalist has equally high standards. But they rub their vision up against reality. They aspire to be their best — within reason. They understand there are only so many hours in the day, and healthily construct an OPTIMAL life within these boundaries.
So, be honest now. Which one are you?
If you’ve ever felt exhausted or burnt out, I think you’ll agree unhealthy perfectionist tendencies come with some serious consequences…
But, the truth is, decades on from the Enjoli woman, we’re now a helluva lot wiser…
And we are DONE playing by the rules that no longer serve us.
So, if we’ve been dealt a bad dose of the unhealthy perfectionist syndrome (as I call it) how can we still hold to a strong commitment AND evolve into the best version of ourselves? How can we embrace the constraints of reality just a little more today?
In other words, how can we move our mindset from Perfectionist to Optimalist?
Well, we can start by remembering ladies, life is not about perfection —
We can have it all. Just not all at once.
Be gentle on yourself. Remember, frying that bacon up in a pan after a hard day at work for your man is probably in your DNA! It’s gonna take a little rewiring to let that past conditioning go.
But, now you’re aware of the difference. Which means you can actively bring your best self forward…
So, next time you feel the pang of perfectionism, be realistic. Look at life through a different lens — and flip that script from Perfectionist to Optimalist.
P.S. If you’re a recovering perfectionist (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) how does it manifest in your life? When do you feel the wheels coming off? Hit me back and let’s talk about it.
P.P.S. And if you want to read more about this topic Ben-Shahar’s book ‘Pursuit of Perfect’ is an ahem, perfect place to start.